News / Europe

    Pilot Flies at Night in a Solar-Powered Plane

    A pioneering pilot is flying at night, after flying all through the day.  The catch?  He is in the cockpit of a solar-powered plane, with the aim of flying through the night until the sun rises Thursday. So far, pilot Andre Borschberg awaits dawn aboard the Solar Impulse HB-SIA aircraft.

    Propellers whirred on the slim airplane's long wings as Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg set out to make history by flying a solar-powered airplane through day and night, without fuel.

    Speaking through a headset from the cockpit after takeoff Wednesday morning in Payerne, Switzerland, Borschberg could barely contain a smile.

    "It was very special, you know.  That's the moment, I think, that everybody has been waiting for since now almost seven years and thinking about it -- I don't want to say every day -- but almost.  That's a very, very important milestone for the project.  I guess everybody was excited, but I was very excited, too," he said.

    The Solar Impulse HB-SIA is a single-seater, solar-powered plane.  Its wings are as long as those of an Airbus A340 -- a whopping 63 meters -- and the top side of those wings are covered with a skin of solar cells.  During daylight hours Wednesday, the plane took in the sun's rays though 12,000 solar panels and charged the plane's 400 kilograms of batteries.  

    The goal is for plane to keep its motors running through the night using the energy stored inside those batteries.

    Borschberg said he was thrilled to be in the cockpit of a plane that was producing more energy than it was consuming.  And he is not simply the pilot for this solar-powered mission.  He is also Solar Impulse's chief executive officer.

    The mission has not been without its setbacks.  The Solar Impulse team had planned for a night flight last week, but they had to postpone that takeoff when a critical piece of equipment malfunctioned.  At that time, the founders of the project, Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, expressed their disappointment as well as their hope.

    "You have to understand that the airplane is completely experimental.  It is the type of airplane that has never flown in the past, so we need to assist the pilot from the ground, but we also need to assist the airplane itself," said Solar Impulse Chairman Piccard.

    He explained that high-tech equipment transmits data from the plane to a team on the ground. That equipment, like everything on the 1,600 kilogram aircraft, is lightweight.  And, he added, the equipment records, in his words, "absolutely everything."  "The team will know about vibrations in the wings, about the position of the flight controls, about the efficiency of the solar cells, all the energy that gets in, all the energy that gets out," he said.

    Piccard initiated the project in 1999, setting his sights on such solar-powered flight after he circumnavigated the world in a balloon.  He said the Solar Impulse illustrates the potential of clean technologies and renewable energy.   

    The Solar Impulse team says Borschberg and the carbon fiber plane spent all day Wednesday slowly ascending to an altitude of 8,700 meters -- 200 meters higher than planned.  Roughly two hours before sunset Wednesday evening, the sun's rays were no longer strong enough to supply the solar cells with energy.  As planned, the plane began a slow descent, with the goal of maintaining an altitude of 1,500 meters until sunrise.  

    In its test flights, the plane managed to stay aloft for 14 hours.  It has already surpassed that record with this flight.  

    And, if the mission is successful, the Solar Impulse HB-SIA will be the first plane to ever harness the power of the sun to fly through the night.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Mulls Tough Measures for ‘Misbehaving’ Chinese Tourists

    Move comes after footage surfaced online of Chinese travelers harassing a banana hawker in Da Nang

    Pakistan Social Media Star's Honor Killing Fuels Debate

    Qandeel Baloch's murder puts spotlight on deadly tradition and other mistreatment of women

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Borderi
    X
    July 22, 2016 12:30 AM
    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.
    Video

    Video Number of Syrian Refugees Arriving in US Jumps

    The United States is committed to resettling 85,000 refugees from around the world by October. Of that number, 10,000 will come from Syria and already some 4,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United States, many of them settling in the state of Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, their arrival is not the end of a difficult journey to find peace and stability.
    Video

    Video Rio’s Trams Await Olympic Tourists

    Over the past century, many cities around the world replaced electric trams, prone to breakdowns and backups, with faster and more spacious buses. But for some reason restored antique trams are a huge tourist attraction. So it’s no wonder the authorities in Rio de Janeiro are busy restoring their city’s old tram line ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. VOA’ George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora